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Lakewood Church shooter was mentally troubled, consistently identified as female, police say

Pastor Joel Osteen speaks at Lakewood Church on Oct. 18, 2020.
Pastor Joel Osteen speaks at Lakewood Church on Oct. 18, 2020. | YouTube/Lakewood Church

Despite reportedly using multiple aliases, including the male name Jeffrey Escalante, Genesse Ivonne Moreno, a mentally troubled individual who was shot dead by off-duty law enforcement officers after opening fire at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church on Sunday, has consistently identified as female, a Houston Police Department officer said Monday. 

"Our shooter is identified by a driver's license as Genesee Moreno 36 years old, Hispanic female. There are some discrepancies," HPD's Commander of Homicide Christopher Hassig said at a press conference. "We do have reports she used multiple aliases, including Jeffrey Escalante. So she has utilized both male and female names but through all of our investigation to this point, talking with individuals, interviews, documents, Houston Police Department reports, she has been identified this entire time as female."

The clarification from HPD comes as some media reports have identified Moreno as a transgender woman who was born a male. Police say the shooter had at least six prior arrests since 2005, including unlawful carrying of a weapon, which Moreno pleaded guilty to; evading arrest; and assault on a public official.   

In a recounting of the shooting at Lakewood Church, Hassig said Moreno pulled up to the west side of the building in a white vehicle at 1:53 p.m. on Sunday with a 7-year-old boy in tow.

"She gets out of her white vehicle. She opens the door, pulls out the 7-year-old child out of the backseat as well as a bag that is with her," he said.

Moreno then "confronts a security guard who lets her in along the west side of the building" at 1:55 p.m.

Houston Police Department
Houston Police Department

Moreno "immediately starts firing" after entering a hallway of the church.

The off-duty officers, who were working approved security jobs for the church, engaged Moreno in a gunfight. Moreno and the child are brought down in a hail of bullets. Hassig said the child was shot once in the head but did not say who shot the child.

"Multiple rounds are fired by her at which point Officer Moreno of the Houston Police Department working an approved extra job at the location as well as TABC agent Herrera returned fire and the exchange is all there on the west side of the building," Hassig said.

"In the hallway, multiple shots are exchanged by all three. She eventually falls to the ground. The 7-year-old child falls to the ground as well from gunfire — one gunshot wound to the head."

Moreno was pronounced dead by Houston Fire Department personnel at 2:07 p.m. Hassig said, while the child remains in "critical condition" at a local hospital.

Two weapons were recovered from the scene, including a .22 caliber rifle, which was not used in the shooting, and an AR-15 with a "Palestine" sticker, which Moreno fired at the officers.

"There was a sticker on the buttstock of the rifle that stated 'Palestine.' A sticker simply stated 'Palestine' on the buttstock," Hassig said.

The homicide investigator, who said HPD has been working with both state and federal officials to come up with a motive for Moreno's attack on the Lakewood Church, suggested that it might have been grounded in the shooter's mental illness, coupled with an ongoing dispute Moreno had with her ex-husband who is Jewish.

"We do have some facts that she was put under an emergency detention order by Houston police officers, we believe in 2016. We do believe that she does have a mental health history that is documented through us and through interviews with family members," Hassig said.

"And we do want to say that through our investigation, I mentioned antisemitic writing. We do believe that there was a familial dispute that has taken place between her ex-husband and her ex-husband's family. And some of those individuals are Jewish, so we believe that that might possibly be where all of this stems from," Hassig said.

In addition to Moreno's death, and the injury of the 7-year-old boy, a 57-year-old man was shot during the gunfight at the church, which began just before a service for Spanish speakers. Police say the man was treated and released from hospital.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner asked for prayers for the boy and everyone affected by the shooting.

"I want to ask for prayers for a 7-year-old kid who's fighting for his life. Questions came up yesterday about him. I think that what we need to do for him is pray. He's still in critical condition fighting for his life the last report I got," Finner said.

"The 57-year-old male who was shot has been released. I want to ask for continued prayers for him and his family and all families involved. The Lakewood family … I spoke to Pastor Osteen this morning, and he would have been here, but his duty, his heart, is with his congregation right now trying to start the healing process. And we want to pray for them."

Anyone with information that can help the police in their ongoing investigation of the shooting are being asked to call the Houston Homicide Department at 713-308-3600 or Crimestoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

Contact: leonardo.blair@christianpost.com Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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